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Testing and Assessment in Counseling: Types & Uses

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  • 0:05 Testing
  • 1:35 Training
  • 2:50 Tests
  • 5:21 Limits
  • 6:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

Why do counselors test their clients? What kind of assessments are out there? This lesson looks into these and other issues of testing and assessment.

Testing

In one of my classes as a graduate student, a professor made an interesting remark that has always stuck with me. Psychology is one part art and one part science. Some people are good at the art, which is therapy and working with people in an active and therapeutic way. Some people are good at science, which is research, testing, and breaking things down and examining their components. Few people truly excel at both, despite needing both to be an effective counselor.

The science of counseling has two main components: research and testing. We are going to focus on testing, which is defined as collecting information to analyze and evaluate a client to identify problems, plan for treatment, and aid in diagnosing. Testing is a specialized form of psychology that involves examining a person's responses and quantifying or describing their meaning. How different tests do this will be explored briefly later. I may use the term assessment, because testing and assessment are fairly interchangeable in psychology.

Testing can be done prior to, during, or following counseling. Testing a client prior to the start of counseling gives you an idea of who the person is walking through the doors. Testing during counseling can help identify additional areas in which to focus or could provide additional information that the counselor needs. Lastly, following counseling, a client may undergo testing to see if any changes have been made.

Training

Specific training is required to administer, score, and interpret these tests. Assessments are not like typical tests that you took in high school and got a grade on. These tests are designed to peer deep into your psyche.

First, you will need a good foundation in psychology and counseling. If I say a client has an enhanced blarga-blargh, you need to know that I am full of lies. With a foundation, you can begin to understand what the tests are telling you.

Second, you need training in statistics. Most tests will present you with numerical representations of information. For example, items like mean, standard deviation, and frequency are not uncommon. Even things like IQ require that you have an understanding of how statistics work.

Third, you need training in the specific test. It is not sufficient to purchase a test and then to use it. Assessments can be insanely specific in the words you use, the position of the seats, and the timing. And that is just the specifics for giving an assessment; we haven't even gone over the specifics for scoring and interpreting the tests. Assessors need to be trained to use the tests so they don't mess it up.

Tests

Assessments come in several varieties, and sometimes they are difficult to differentiate because they can blend variations. That being said, we can narrow most psychological tests down to three categories. To make things easier, let's say our client is represented by a person riding a bike to illustrate some of these tests.

The first test we call functioning. These tests assess what the client's abilities are, usually in comparison to others. Some examples of these include IQ tests, academic tests, and aptitude tests. These types of tests could be said to answer the following question: What level is this person functioning at? Are they reading at grade level? Are they intelligent enough to handle advanced counseling, or should they only have lower, behavioral counseling? Many other questions could be answered, but they all focus on how high the functioning level of the client is. Our bike analogy works the same way: how fast is the bike going? How fast can it go? What is breaking down?

The second test we will call personality. These tests assess the client's beliefs, traits, and qualities. Some examples include the Myers-Briggs, the MMPI-2, and various others. Before you get too excited, these tend to be a little higher than the ones you find online, with hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of work put into development and writing. The questions these types of assessments answer is: Who is this person? Are they excitable or calm? Do they have qualities that make them prone to stress? In our bike analogy, this type of assessment looks into the makeup of the bike. How big are the tires? How many gears? It tells you what the bike consists of.

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